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Around this time last year, I began a series of criticisms against Herm Edwards and the Chiefs’ brass for the way it seemed they were setting up Brodie Croyle to fail. Despite clearly installing Croyle as the team’s quarterback over the offseason, little was done from a personnel standpoint to improve the 31st ranked offense of 2007.
Unfortunately, with the way 2009 is shaping up, things aren’t looking a whole lot better for new Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel. With Tony Gonzalez now in Atlanta, is it possible that Cassel might actually be worse off than Croyle was when last season started?
It’s not as crazy as it sounds.
To date, the only improvement the Chiefs have made to the offensive line is the signing of veteran guard Mike Goff. However, that statement comes with a disclaimer – Goff will only count as an upgrade if he replaces the departed Adrian Jones at right guard. If Goff is ultimately used to replace Brian Waters, who still appears to be at-odds with Chiefs’ management, then the offensive line will have actually taken a step or two backwards.
Last week’s signing of former Cincinnati center Eric Ghiaciuc can hardly be considered an improvement. Ghiaciuc has been a below-average performer in his career with the Bengals, particularly when it comes to pass protection.
Reportedly, his former team never even made an effort to keep him. Cincinnati fans have actually been celebrating the fact he won’t be back. If Ghiaciuc actually beats Rudy Niswanger out for a starting job in Kansas City, it speaks volumes to the lack of talent the Chiefs have collected.
In a draft that was loaded with depth along the offensive line, the Chiefs only came away with former Mizzou tackle Colin Brown. When his name came off the board, there were notable draft sites that didn’t even have a scouting report for him. The ones that did listed him as a seventh-round pick or potential undrafted free-agent signing.
Brown may develop into a quality lineman over time, but the chances of him stepping in and contributing right away seem fairly remote. Worse yet, with the new Chiefs’ regime taking a late-round project at right tackle, some unfavorable conclusions can probably be drawn over Barry Richardson, the late-round right tackle project of last year’s staff.
That would leave Damion McIntosh manning the right tackle spot, which means the Chiefs’ offensive line in 2009 won’t look much different than it did a year ago. Goff over Jones is a definite upgrade at right guard, but the positions of center and right tackle will continue to be an issue. If the Chiefs were to trade Waters, the situation worsens significantly.
Unfortunately, there seems to be little the Chiefs can do to boost the line any further, other than signing some more veterans from the free agent scrap heap or hoping some quality players are cut from other teams. The news isn’t much better when it comes to the offensive weapons Cassel will have to work with.
Two weeks ago, with Bobby Engram, Gonzalez, Dwayne Bowe, and Larry Johnson – not to mention a hot-shot offensive coach like Todd Haley taking over – it seemed like KC’s offense would be the least of the team’s worries.
Now that Gonzalez has been shipped to Atlanta, however, all bets are off.
The only addition of note at wide receiver this offseason has been Engram, who is expected to man the slot position. When he was healthy last year, Mark Bradley proved to be a viable #2 receiver. Sadly, though, the phrase “when healthy” only refers to a sliver of Bradley’s NFL career.
The Chiefs drafted speedy wideout Quinten Lawrence in the sixth round, but it’s unlikely a low-round pick will find his way into the playing rotation as a rookie. Then again, it’s not like he has much competition ahead of him.
Ultimately, the loss of Gonzalez looms large, and it’s hard to imagine how the Chiefs plan on replacing his output.
Nothing has come out of Arrowhead, but rumors of interest in Anquan Boldin have persisted for months. Unfortunately, Boldin doesn’t appear to fit the profile Scott Pioli is looking for.
Boldin has spent the last two offseasons complaining about his contract and looking for ways out of Arizona, and – worse yet – he put his own interests ahead of his team’s during the NFC Championship game. Boldin’s antics weren’t limited to the sideline argument he started with Haley while the Cardinals were trying to take the lead late in the game. He actually left the field early while his teammates celebrated because he was so angry at losing playing time to another receiver.
There are other options out there – former Chicago Bear Marty Booker reportedly attended a recent Chiefs’ workout, and the aging Marvin Harrison remains un-signed – but few receivers would offer the offensive punch Boldin would bring. There’s no question of his talent, but his attitude – and the compensation it would take to get him – make it unlikely he’d ever line up as a Chief.
But something has to be done, as the pickings appear pretty slim after Bowe. After all, what good is a fancy new quarterback if he has no one to throw to?
A week ago, as the final selections of the NFL draft were being made, Pioli sat in front of the Kansas City media and said he wasn’t finished improving the team. He talked about existing free agents, players who may soon become free agents, and ultimately made it clear there’s still a long way to go.
Plenty can happen between now and the start of training camp in July. But if the Chiefs hope to have a capable offense this season, Pioli and Haley have their work cut out for them.